Should babies come with an instruction manual? Well, that would make it infinitely for most first-time moms who find themselves thrust into the role of full-time nurturer. If you think you're prepared for the trials of motherhood, think again, says Mridula Dixit, as she lovingly recalls her own 'extra-marital affair' with her newborn daughter, Malavika.
My first extra marital affair, unlike most love stories, was not love at first sight. In fact, our first meeting couldn’t have been more ill timed (but then looking back, I don’t think we had an option). I remember, I had been through great distress and let’s be fair to Malvika, it hadn’t been easy for her either.
Imagine being unceremoniously pushed out of your home, as if struck by a Tsunami. She was naturally bewildered and therefore did what nature ordained her to do — she bawled. I on my part did what a fatigued soul does – I shut my eyes and fell asleep.
When I stirred, I saw that the momentous meeting between father and daughter was taking place. But hey! What was that expression on my husband’s face? He looked at me and exclaimed, “Why is it looking like this?” “What do you mean ‘it’?” I asked horrified, grabbed my glasses and peeped at the bundle…. My husband’s expression read “My Baby?” I gave him a firm ‘yes’. One look at that grim and angry face and I had no doubt. “Takes after the mother-in-law”, I declared. “Yeah mine”, retorted my petty husband.
Our silence was broken by an angry wail. Why weren’t we gushing like all new parents we’d seen in movies? That’s because the bundle we held did not resemble any of the cute, gurgling babies sitting in a cabbage or a sunflower or what have you. Don’t let card companies con you. Newborns do not look like those picture perfect babies.
They are not chubby, they have soft downy hair all over their body, their skin is flaky, and they do not smile or make eye contact. They cry when they are uncomfortable, feed when they are hungry and then roll and sleep off without so much as a ‘thank you Ma’am’ as soon as their needs are met (again that’s Daddy dear’s legacy).
Moms have to patiently groom them in soft skills – yah, the smiles, eye contact etc… And while the socialisation is on, there’s a more immediate task to cope with — feeding. If a fairy were to grant me one wish, I’d ask for men to lactate. Until then sis, get ready for smelly, sticky nighties. Resign yourself to slavery, no uninterrupted sleep and a 24/7 shift. Cows, I’m told will kick if milked at an un-negotiated time. No such luck to you Ma’am.
But do not despair. Love is around the corner. Although this will be your saga for the first few months, (which of course seems like eternity) if you survive this test by fire… you’ll see that your enfant terrible has been civilized, socialized and has his biological clock ticking according to IST (Indian Standard Time). Congratulations! And one fine night (as it happened to me) if you haven’t dropped dead and you turn around, you will find your baby sleeping soundly.
Babies sleep like the Laughing Buddha, with their hands up and they look just as serene. That night I embarked on my first extra marital affair… I was in love. Each night when I see my baby sleeping so calmly, so trusting, my eyes moisten, lips curl up in a smile, and the day flashes by and let me confess… often, I am not proud of my behaviour.
Yes, it’s time to say my prayer to Malvika, “Thanks for bringing joy and life to the day, thanks for the energy and enthusiasm which can be so contagious. And sorry for my impatience, sorry for that harsh word, sorry for that hard look, sorry for asking you to grow up, sorry for being unreasonable, sorry, sorry, sorry.” (Just like the prayer we say to God, this one is of gratitude and remorse and just like the good Lord, Malvika forgives me and gives me another chance).
Each morning is another day to her, she forgives and forgets and she runs to hug me. I am expiated. Oh Malvika! Why can’t I be more worthy of you? I am trying sweetheart. Please don’t give up on me. And thank you, darling, for making me a Mother.